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5 golden rules of crowdfunding

Melbourne musician ROSE WINTERGREEN on why crowdfunding is like bungee jumping off a cliff with no harness.

When it came time to click “launch” on my crowdfunding campaign for my new record, I put it off. I was scared. Scared of asking. Scared of failing (does anyone out there really want to hear more music from me? Perhaps the fans who already write to me are just being polite?). Scared of succeeding and perhaps ending up with a bigger work-load than I could manage.

I’d spent 18 months preparing for that moment. I’d interviewed lots of people who had crowd-funded before – singer-songwriters like Sam Buckingham, Rosie Catalano (who has now crowd-funded two EPs), visual artists, writers, animators, actors, and festival directors, as well as Rick Chen (one of the directors of the Australian crowdfunding site Pozible). They told me how fantastic it would feel receiving support from fans, friends and family, and from completely new people.

They warned me how much work would be involved – that a crowdfunding campaign for a new record could take a whole year to complete from early planning stages through to distributing the final rewards to supporters. That, if not planned well, it could become a bigger beast to manage than putting together the new record.

“The feeling of receiving the first pledge was incredible.”

They warned me that I should pick my target amount carefully – the amount I needed for the project, plus 10 percent on top of that to cover fees and tax on the money raised – but that there’s no hard and fast science on predicting what a “realistic” target might be.

They warned me that no matter what I did, there would be a lull in the middle of my campaign where I’d stop receiving pledges. That most people would pledge at the very beginning, or the very final days. That it might be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster of, “I think I’m going to make it!” to “God, my project’s not going to happen”. That it would be much easier to get people excited about my campaign if it wasn’t just about funding a new record, but about providing exciting and unique opportunities for fans.

You might have thought it would be easier for me to just sell my soul and become a telemarketing machine woman for six months to raise the money. You’re probably right.

But it’s not just about the money

I didn’t want to just make another record. I wanted to do something that was about more than just me and my songs. I believe everyone is creative, and I love helping people realise this about themselves. I wanted to get to know my fans better. I decided that crowdfunding would give me a great opportunity to do that.

I spent lots of time freaking out, doing calculations in fancy spreadsheets, coming up with exciting rewards (like co-writing a song, live Skype concerts, creative coaching sessions, and house concerts, as well as the normal pre-release copy of the new record) deleting rewards (I was told I had too many), and coming up with ways of keeping people excited when the campaign was live (I launched several days before going into the studio to record, which also coincided with my birthday, which helped). Nothing prepared me for the reality of doing it!

The feeling of receiving the first pledge was incredible. It was like someone was giving the finger to all my doubts, and saying, “YES! I WANT THIS!” Every pledge since has felt just as good. The mornings I wake up to a new email telling me another person has pledged their support are like Christmas! I’m at the tail-end of my 30-day crowdfunding campaign, and have raised about 50 percent of the target. Will I make it? I don’t know. What I do know is that it’s already been worth it. Now I know there are people out there who love my music so much that they’ll invest in a new record before they’ve heard it.

THE FIVE GOLDEN RULES OF CROWDFUNDING

1. Get real

Do you have the crowd? Figure out your numbers before you go launching anything. Crowdfunding research is still in its early days, but as a general rule, you’ll only get pledges from about 10 percent of your pre-existing “crowd” (that’s Facebook and Twitter followers, mailing list subscribers, numbers at shows), and they’ll pledge $30-$50 on average. Do you have the time and energy? Crowdfunding is a big undertaking. It will be a full-time project for much of the campaign, and you’ll have to be very emotionally resilient. It’s not wise to do it while something else big is happening in your life. How do you think you would cope if the campaign failed? Make sure you’re in a good space to be able to deal with that.

2. Get creative

Everyone’s crowdfunding. What are you going to do to make your project a talking point? What rewards can you offer that will be irresistible to fans? One of my faves I’ve seen is Sam Buckingham’s reward for pledgers to go disco bowling with her.

3. Get feedback

Get several different people to look at your draft crowdfunding project, paying particular attention to your video and the rewards you’re offering. Ask them if they seem exciting, if anything’s missing, and if the pricing seems right.

4. Plan your heart out

Decide before you launch what you’ll do to get the word out. Try to book shows during the campaign period. Put together a schedule of when you’ll email people, update your Facebook page etc. Have a media release ready to go so you can organise some interviews. Have a collection ready to go of things you can use to keep people interested – new videos, interesting pics and talking points.

5. Cross your fingers and jump

No one can tell you if your crowdfunding campaign will be successful. The only way to know for sure is to give it a go! Jump willingly into asking people for help. If you don’t ask directly, many people will be oblivious, no matter how many posts you put up on social media, or how much they love your music.

Disclaimer: I did so much research into crowdfunding that Pozible made me a Pozible ambassador. I don’t receive money for the role – but it means if you’re thinking about crowdfunding using Pozible, I can help answer your questions.

Rose Wintergreen is a Melbourne-based singer-songwriter and a social media coach to creatives. Her crowdfunding campaign closes on May 27. Follow her progress here.

Comments

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Andy_1989

Andy_1989 said on the 23rd May, 2013

great work. if you don't mind me asking, what was your target? also, what did you offer in exchange for pledges, pre-orders, merchandise, performances and so on? or was it more of a charity campaign?

humanracin

humanracin said on the 23rd May, 2013

Pledge Music is a great site, I've pledged on albums quite a few times there.
It helps if you are already an artist with a fan base but maybe not getting any attention from big music labels anymore.
I think that's the type of artist these things work best for.
Things that make me want to pledge are:
Knowing you will get the album before the general public.
Getting the album as a download while waiting for the cd to arrive.
Offering rare and unreleased tracks as either cds or downloads.

RWintergreen

RWintergreen said on the 23rd May, 2013

thanks for taking the time to read and comment guys! :)

andy_1989 - thanks! it's $8,000, 4 days to go! no, not a charity campaign! details here: pozible(dot)com/rosewintergreen

humanracin - yes, definitely need to already have a good base of supporters i think - although they don't necessarily have to be "fans". e.g. rosie catalano successfully crowdfunded her first ever ep - i'm guessing that for that campaign, a lot of friends and family got behind it (which might be enough to get you over the line, depending on your target). great to hear your feedback re rewards too. i've ticked most of those boxes! you can check them out here: pozible(dot)com/rosewintergreen

wildfiresm

wildfiresm said on the 23rd May, 2013

great article... i love crowdfunding as it allows me to align with local talent i want to support in a way that is a win win. can i share this story to my network? i wrote a blog about pozible and a local project which i supported (the cookie crumbles - perth short film)

would love to share your story of how you are using crowd funding and social media to fund your project.

Toofarbehind

Toofarbehind said on the 23rd May, 2013

really really hope you reach your target!!! your last album is amazing, cant wait to hear your latest release! fingers crossed you cross the line!

RWintergreen

RWintergreen said on the 23rd May, 2013

wildfiresm - absolutely! go for it! and let me know if you have any questions about using crowdfunding for music projects, very happy to help.

toofarbehind - thanks so much! need all the help i can get at the moment! you could help by sharing the link and letting people know. pozible(dot)com/rosewintergreen